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State adds to list of essential workers

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MONTPELIER — As the number of Vermonters diagnosed with COVID-19 continues to climb, Gov. Phil Scott has expanded the definition of workers considered essential to the state's response to include grocery store workers, pharmacy staff and others.

Those deemed essential by the state are being given access to child care, under an emergency order by Scott.

The Vermont Department of Health said Thursday that another three Vermonters have been diagnosed with COVID-19, including a Bennington County woman in her 80s, bringing the total to 22. Neither the Bennington County woman nor the second patient, an Orange County woman in her 60s, has been hospitalized. The third patient was tested at another state's laboratory, the health department said.

The list of essential workers, updated Wednesday, now includes grocery and food supply workers, staff and providers of child care and education services — including custodial and kitchen staff and other support staff — who do not do their work remotely, pharmacy staff, active duty military staff, and foster families with children through grade 8.

It also includes 2-1-1 call center staff; critical infrastructure/utility workers; water/wastewater operators and staff; state, municipal and commercial public works or sanitation crews; supply chain, postal and delivery drivers; manufacturers of medical devices, equipment, testing equipment and supplies and fuel distribution workers.

The updated list also includes groups that were listed as essential in Scott's initial directive, including healthcare workers, first responders, criminal justice personnel, public health employees, firefighters and Vermont National Guard personnel called to duty for the COVID-19 response; the updated list continues to include these groups.

All state employees are also now being considered essential people.

"We develop these using a risk benefit analysis with a goal of minimizing the number of people aggregated together, while keeping essential services running," said Mark Bosma, public information officer for Vermont Emergency Management, in an email.

The Department of Public Safety, Agency of Education, and Department of Children and Families made the decisions to update the list. Officials are analyzing the list daily and will make additions as appropriate, Bosma said.

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DMV, alcohol sales

Scott has issued two more directives, one permitting the to-go sale and delivery of alcohol, and one suspending all in-person transactions at the Department of Motor Vehicles, in efforts aimed at mitigating the spread of the coronavirus.

One directive, issued Thursday, permits to-go sales and delivery of beverage alcohol with the purchase of a meal, and the delivery of alcohol products by licensed retail stores.

The directive went into effect immediately, and is in effect until April 15.

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Delivery of alcohol is allowed between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m., and only by those who are at least 18 years old and are certified to sell or serve alcohol.

All deliveries must be in person to a physical building or residence, and establishments must keep delivery logs.

Scott had previously banned on-premises consumption of food and drink at restaurants and bars, effective Tuesday at 2 p.m. until April 6, in a further social distancing measure. Restaurants, bars and establishments may also still offer take-out and delivery food.

On Wednesday, Scott ordered the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend all in-person transactions as of the close of business on Thursday. This directive is in effect until April 6.

The DMV will provide online, mail and phone services, and is extending license and registration renewals for 90 days beyond their official expiration date, effective March 13. Temporary registration certificates and number plates will be valid for 90 days.

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All license and non-driver ID renewal applications will be processed by mail or online, as long as applicant photographs that would otherwise be non-compliant with state law are compliant with the federal government's REAL ID Act, according to the directive.

On Tuesday, Scott directed child care centers across the state to cease normal operations while also requiring public schools to provide child care for those essential to Vermont's ongoing response to COVID-19.

Schools statewide had been ordered to close no later than Wednesday under a separate order, issued by Scott on Sunday. The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union dismissed all students at the end of the day Monday.

The directive lasts through April 6, but could be extended.

Child care help

The state has also developed a web form, with the help of Let's Grow Kids, to more easily connect the families of essential workers with child care in schools and licensed child care programs that are operating to provide services now through April 6, when school dismissal and general child care service closures are in effect, according to a media release from the state's Emergency Operations Center sent Wednesday night.

Eligible families can complete the form and the state, through the Agency of Education for school-aged children through grade 8, and Child Development Division for younger children, will work to connect essential workers who need child care with options for their children, the release states.

Families can also call 2-1-1 ext. 6 or 877-705-9008 to speak to a child care referral specialist.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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